Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010

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Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto D.O.C. 2010

Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto D.O.C. 2010

It’s the first Monday after the Christmas and New Year holidays and I want to proclaim that standard service is now resuming.  I have a queue full of wines and notes, so it should be simply a matter of switching from holiday mode to work mode.  These reviews aren’t going to write themselves, right?  While I’m feeling somewhat bleary from both the holidays and the heat (over 100°F/40°C here) this is just the wine to get me through the transition, Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010.

Coming up on the anniversary of the infamous WSET Diploma Unit 3 Exam which I managed somehow to pass last January, it’s a good time to reflect on how little I actually know about wine, in particular with respect to what I should know.  For instance, within the syllabus for North East Italy there is a link to an OCW entry for Bardolino which describes the geography, the grapes grown and the style of wines produced.  Sadly, my reaction when I first encountered this wine was “I’ve never heard of that.”

Had I been a better student, I would have recalled that Bardolino is a region within the Veneto.  It is best known for light red wines, typically made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, which are grown on a large plain to the east of Lake Garda.  The soils are fairly fertile, made up of fine gravel and silt, especially in the southern end of the region.  The climate is mild and moderated by the proximity to the lake.  As with many Italian denominaziones, there is the greater Bardolino region as well as a core Classico area which has slightly more stringent requirements (an extra 1% ABV and a year of ageing) though the differentiation is more to do with a relatively recent expansion than with an appreciable quality difference.  The Bardolino Superiore DOCG, on the other hand, does represent a step up.  Rosé wine has its own DOC called Bardolino Chiaretto, and there is a corresponding Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante DOC for sparkling rosé wine.

While three grapes are grown in the region, this wine only makes use of Corvina and Rondinella, and as this if the first time I’ve covered a wine made of either, they’re both worth a mention.  Corvina, or Corvina Veronese as it is officially called in Wine Grapes, and Rondinella are not only both red grapes native to the area around Verona, but are in fact related, with Corvina believed to be a parent of Rondinella.  Both are used, along with Molinara, in the light, red blends of Valpolicella and Bardolino, and Corvina may be used on its own in Garda DOC wines. Of the two, Corvina is generally regarded as being a higher quality grape, though Rondinella produces higher yields.  Neither is widely cultivated outside of North East Italy, though Freeman Vineyards in New South Wales apparently has plantings of both and uses them, by way of a prune dehydrator, to make an concentrated wine in the style of Amarone (which obviously I must now seek out).

Azienda Agricola Benazzoli Fulvio is a relatively young company but with family roots going back four generations.  The family business was established in Trentino after World War II and as it grew it passed from father to son to grandson over the decades that followed.  In 2009 two of the founders’ granddaughters, Claudia and Giulia with qualifications in winemaking and viticulture respectively, established the Benazzoli brand in Bardolino and bottled their first vintage.  Their holdings are comprised of 28HA of Corvina and Rondinella vines, from which they produce Bardolino, Chiaretto and Chiaretto Spumante, all DOC.  They also produce a Veneto IGT Pinot Grigio.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright with quick thick legs and a medium plus salmon colour.  On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity and notes of strawberries, vanilla, peaches, and bananas – real smoothie material.  On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium plus body, medium intensity, medium minus alcohol, medium minus tannins and medium plus length.  There are notes of strawberries, raspberries, banana, and little hint of tart cranberries.

This is a good wine.  The fruit notes on the nose had me worried there might be some residual sugar but a sip banished such thoughts.  It has slightly more weight on the palate than I might have expected given that it’s light in terms of alcohol and tannins, but it gives it a nice texture.  And while I don’t generally care so much about a wine’s colour, this one is a particularly pleasing shade of pink.

Soave Pieropan 2009

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Soave Pieropan 2009

Soave Pieropan 2009

Regular visitors may have noticed on the homepage a small map on the right sidebar which has a pin in it for the ten articles that feature on the homepage.  Articles that aren’t strictly about a single wine don’t have a pin, but in general it should show the location of the the ten or so most recent producers.  I do try to spread the love as much as possible, and while North America is often not represented, I’m reasonably happy with the spread at the moment, across the Old World, South America, Africa and Australasia.  What’s not on the map though is a wine from Italy, but to correct that I give you the Soave Pieropan 2009.

This is the first Soave I’ve covered, so let’s get right to it.  I have vague recollections of the name from my youth, which makes sense as it was the best selling Italian DOC wine in the USA in the 1970s.  It has since been surpassed, but still remains popular.  It’s a slightly complicated situation in that it’s the name of a commune in the Veneto region in the Province of Verona in northen Italy, but the term is generally used to describe wine from there.  However, the wine situation is slightly more complicated.  Soave was initially given DOC status in 1968, though the area under the the DOC was expanded well beyond the original borders over the following decades.  In 2001 DOCG designation was given to an area which was not exactly the original DOC area, causing great controversy and for some producers to drop out of the DOC/G designation to produce IGT wines.  There is a classico area which was originally designated in 1927, which is an additional descriptor that may be attached to wines produced from vines in the oldest of the original area.

Broadly speaking, the DOCG and classico area consists of plantings on hillsides, where the soil is less fertile than the soils of the flat alluvial plains of the expanded DOC region.  The hilly areas in the west are largely based on limestone which provides retained warmth for ripening, while the eastern hills are more decomposed volcanic igneous rock which provide minerality to wines.  The climate is warm Mediterranean though being in the hills the influence of the Adriatic is somewhat diminished.  However, the mists of the Po Valley in the autumn can bring mould and disease pressure.

Winemaking in Soave is largely centred around the grape variety Garganega, and it is required to make up at least 70% of a blend.  The contents of the other 30% vary depending on DOC or DOCG designation.  For DOGC wines, Trebbiano de Soave, Pinot Bianco or Chardonnay may make up to 30%, but up to 5% cumulatively are permitted of Friulano, Cortese, Riesling Italico, Vespaiolo, and Serprina.  For DOC wines, Trebbiano Toscano, the same rules largely apply with the exception that up to 15% of Trebbiano Toscano is permitted.  As everywhere, the required alcohol levels are higher and permitted yields are lower for DOCG wines than for DOC.

Garganega is a familiar grape for people who have been reading along since the early days.  We had a look at one with the Domain Day, but as with most of my early posts, I hadn’t really found my format and so I didn’t give the grape the coverage it deserves.  It’s a thick skinned white grape, vigourous and late ripening.  In addition to the wines of Soave, it’s also used to form most of the blend in nearby Gambellara.  As with so many grapes, it performs well when it can fully ripen, has it’s yields carefully managed, and particularly when planted on hillsides with poor fertility.  (I need a macro to paste that, I find it being so often the case.)

Outside of the Veneto, it’s not widely planted, or at least it wasn’t thought to be so until recently.  DNA profiling suggests that it is the same grape that is known as Grecanico Dorato (aka Grecanio) in Sicily.  Outside of Italy, the only record I can find of it being planted is with the aforementioned Domain Day.

Pieropan is a fourth generation family business, established in 1890 by Leonildo Pieropan in Soave.  They produce a number of Soaves, from this relatively entry level wine up through some single vineyard bottlings and Passito della Rocca, a barrel fermented and aged blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Trebbiano.  In addition, they expanded into red wines with the purchase of property in the nearby Amarone and Valpolicella area, and they produce at the moment one of each of those wines, as well as a sparkling rosé.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with pale lemon colour and thick legs.  On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium minus intensity and notes of pear, sandalwood, vanilla, and cream.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium flavour intensity, medium acid, medium plus alcohol, and medium body.  There are notes of lime, passion fruit, vanilla, and honeycomb, but with a sour/nail varnish finish.  It had a medium plus length but not in a good way given the sour finish.

I’m torn between this being acceptable and good.  It has an unimpressive nose, but on the palate it hits the marks with intensity, balance, and a reasonably interesting and complex flavour profile.  However, that finish really didn’t agree with me.  I’m going to go with good, particularly as it’s a relatively affordable entry level example, and it was by the glass so it’s possible I wasn’t tasting it at its best.

Villa Jolanda Prosecco

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Villa Jolanda Prosecco

Villa Jolanda Prosecco

Just a quick update to keep things moving along, with a charming sparkler from Italy. Tonight we opened up a bottle of Villa Jolanda Prosecco, and it absolutely hit the spot.

First, the facts.  I know pretty much nothing about this producer, Santero.  Their website suggests they make a wide range of wines in the north of Italy, but it’s not clear exactly where in their hierarchy this wine sits, in their carved range.  Best I stick with general information about Prosecco.

Prosecco is a white grape, and is typically used in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia to make sparkling wine.  A somewhat funny thing is happening, or has happened with regard to the name.  Apparently the producers are trying to change the name of the grape to Glera, such that Prosecco will only refer to the wines made within the DOC(G) areas of Italy, and when used anywhere else it must be called Glera.  On the one hand, I can see a region trying to protect its interests, and Prosecco has become a brand on it’s own.  However, I think this is a pretty bogus effort, in that it’s a grape name, and grapes are transportable.  Italy is so difficult with regard to region versus grape name, but this is just silly.  You can protect and maintain, say, Champagne, because it is the name of the region, but trying to protect Chardonnay because it’s one of the grapes used is going too far.

A quick update from months later – I had originally assumed this to be a varietal Prosecco, which means of course I was wrong.  It’s 85% Prosecco, but the remainder is some mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Bianchetta, Perera and Verdiso, the last three being native grapes that were unknown to me until I went back to update my data on past posts.

Anyway, Prosecco is generally light and sometimes slightly sweet.  It’s secondary fermentation is done in tank, instead of the traditional method where the secondary fermentation takes place in bottle.  That makes it much cheaper to produce.  This wine is a non-vintage, which usually means it contains grapes from more than one year.  I’m not sure if it is common to blend across vintages with Prosecco in the way that it is with Champagne, but this wine was young and fresh.

Yes, about this wine in the glass – it was just right.  Normally I try to write about the qualities of the wine that one might expect should it be encountered, and so I have to give a few such descriptors.  It was fairly pale, a bit lighter than straw.  It had medium sized bubbles, which persisted through the meal.  The nose was light and fruity, the palate the same.  Not quite delicate, but crisp and light, despite a hint of sweetness.  It was of good, possibly very good quality.

However, this wine was perfect tonight.  It was a hot, muggy day, and for dinner we had sushi.  The wine went well with the fish, was refreshing in the face of the weather, and at under 12% alcohol wasn’t overbearing.  There are times when a wine is great in a vacuum, but this wine was perfect in context.

Pin is the address of the producer, alas some distance away from the origin of this wine in Veneto.